In a week of being stuck inside, it can be difficult to know what news matters. Helpfully, John Gilding is here to give you the highlights of the past week.

  1. University of Sheffield cancelled face-to-face teaching 

After around 500 reported student cases of Covid-19 at the university, an announcement was made that face-to-face teaching was being suspended for a week, with an exception made for clinical teaching. Which makes sense, I would rather that the doctors and nurses of the future didn’t have to improvise their practical work using their housemates, some ketchup and whatever else they can find in their kitchen. 

As for the rest of us, the little to no contact hours we have are gone for a week, to allow for teaching spaces to be rearranged for two metre social distancing, a massive 50 centimetre rise from the original arrangement.

For now, we’ve just got to get used to a few more hours a week of 15 people all replying at once to a lecturer saying: “can you hear me”. A few more hours of having YouTube videos shoved through Blackboard Collaborate so that they come through the other side at 0.2 frames a second. A few more hours of feeling bad for your seminar tutor staring at a wall of grey icons where students’ faces should be but not doing anything about it because you’re a self-conscious introvert who is still in their pyjamas eating ice cream straight from the tub with a fork.

2. Earth was found not to be the best place to live

This week, a new study found 24 planets considered to be ‘superhabitable’, as in, better than Earth for supporting life. We don’t know too much about them, as the purpose of the study was to find the first planets to look at when we make better telescopes, but they sound lovely. A little warmer than here, and although some of them are a little bit bigger than Earth, it might make a nice change. Keeps you grounded. 

Naturally, they’d be the first places to consider when we need another home, if we continue to wreck this one.
Obviously, with each super-planet being at least 100 light years away, this is only hypothetical, but even if we could get there, I’m not sure we’d be entirely welcome. 

These superhabitable planets might already have people living on them, and even if we went tomorrow, and left behind a few million clever people here to sort out the Earth, we’d still be turning up on their doorstep and asking for 7 billion beds to sleep in. That’s like flooding your house with bubbles after using too many Lush bath bombs and burning it down with a Yankee Candle, and then going to the nicest house 3 streets away and asking the occupants you’ve never met if you can stay with them for a bit.
Except it would be even worse than that, because it wouldn’t be you that was doing the asking, it would be someone important. Like the KGB’s Mr Charisma 1987, Vladimir Putin, with Boris Johnson poking out from behind him rattling a tube of Pringles as a gift. I think I’d rather stay at home with the scientists. 


3. A fly landed on Mike Pence’s head

If you aren’t an American, the small Presidential election they’re having over there might have passed you by until now, like the faint buzzing of a fly constantly floating around in the background of your life. But this week the two vice-presidential candidates, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris had their one and only debate, which is particularly important this time, given Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the oldest pair of candidates in history, and so either of these two could be asked to step up in the event of ill health.

The debate was pretty much a President-lite version of the main debate, and fairly unremarkable, apart from one insect which captured the hearts and minds of everybody watching.
A fly sat on Mike Pence’s head for two minutes of the debate, standing out against his brilliant white hair. It may have been just getting a front-row seat for the political punch-up, but what if it wasn’t?

What if it was the insect world’s first foray into human politics?

That could have been Dwight D. Flysenhower outlining his plan for the nation, and if I’m honest, I would listen. I’m sure he would have some revolutionary policy on those taser fly-swat things and fly paper. He might be a little drastic with his views on fly-spider relations, but I could get on board with that, and I’m sure a lot more people could. Flysenhower 2024 here we go!


Image credit: Gage Skidmore


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